Jodie hates the rain. She looks grimly out of the window at it, then switches her gaze to the mirror, to herself. An orange Aisha stares back at her. There are dark rings under her eyes, and her mouth, no matter how hard she tries, refuses to twist into a smile. She looks every bit as miserable as she feels.
It's time to go to school.
Giving one last despairing glance at herself, Jodie swings her backpack over her shoulder and leaves her room. She says a vague goodbye to her mother, who is dancing around the kitchen, humming to herself as she makes cookies or cupcakes or maybe some of those gorgeous triple chocolate brownies like she did last week.
Jodie wishes she could stay here, that she didn't have to step outside and trek through the rain to a building where a bright sign boldly proclaims 'NEOSCHOOL'. But she does, so she opens the door and steps outside, immediately hit with a face of icy rainwater. Anya Roberts took her umbrella yesterday and Jodie's coat does little to protect her from the rain, so Jodie walks as fast as she can without slipping over, arms wrapped tightly around herself.
She hates going to school.
When she finally, finally reaches the gates of the school, Jodie is soaked to the skin and dripping water everywhere. Students are shrieking and laughing, some splashing in the puddles and grinning. Everyone else – everyone sane, Jodie thinks to herself – is running into the building, water flying from them as they charge for cover.
Shivering, Jodie follows the others into the school. Her wellies – a bright pink that she would probably have loved four years ago – squelch with every step. Jodie grimaces and heads to her locker.
“Class, we have a new student today.”
Jodie looks up from where she is doodling in her notebook – a Faellie in mid-flight, little stars flying out behind it – to see a rainbow Eyrie standing at the front of the room.
The Eyrie, like everyone else, is soaking wet, standing in a puddle of rainwater but she isn't dressed for the weather and she doesn't seem at all bothered by it.
She wears a billowy white shirt and a swirly multi-coloured skirt that looks suspiciously like it's from the Second-Hand Shoppe. Numerous necklaces and bracelets hang from her frame, charms clinking against each other, and on her feet are a pair of flip-flops.
This girl, Jodie thinks, is quite insane.
“Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, Lucky?” asks Miss Green.
Miss Green is a kind, enthusiastic yellow Gelert, who doesn't seem to realise she has doomed the girl to a terrible fate with just one sentence. It takes about three seconds for the Eyrie's name to register with the class, before the delighted shrieks and laughter come flying out. Already dubious about her strange attire, the Eyrie's name is all the ammo they need.
“Lucky? My Spardel is called Lucky!”
“What kind of ridiculous name is that?”
“Lucky! Want to play fetch, Lucky?”
Jodie hates herself for feeling heartened by this cruel display, but maybe, just maybe this means that they'll leave her alone. Maybe those bullies will give their attention to Lucky. It's no wonder this girl is crazy, Jodie thinks, with a name like Lucky.
The Eyrie just smiles distantly as Miss Green tries to quiet everyone down. She makes her way to the only available seat – the one beside Jodie, naturally, because who would want to sit next to her? She smiles at Jodie, her green eyes – and shouldn't they be orange? – friendly and welcoming. “Hello!” Lucky whispers.
Jodie doesn't reply, her gaze firmly fixed at the front of the class.
The table in the very corner of the cafeteria is empty, as usual. There is an unspoken rule that Jodie is the only one who sits there. Everyone gives her a wide berth, either to steer clear of the extensive range of bullies that target Jodie or merely to avoid her unfriendly, sarcastic mannerisms. Jodie doesn't really care what their motives are.
She doesn't care that she has no friends, that no one likes her. She doesn't.
Jodie sits in the seat furthest away from the rest of the students, as if by some miracle this will make her invisible to them. It doesn't.
First up is Anya Roberts – and oh, how she hates that smug little pink Uni. She looks just like the lovely Uni at the pound, only Anya is not lovely by any stretch of the imagination. She walks past Jodie's table and knocks her juice all over her, staining Jodie's favourite Jazzmosis T-shirt a nasty shade of purple.
She gasps. “Sorry. What a terrible accident.” Her mouth twists into a smirk.
Jodie doesn't look up from where she is dabbing at her T-shirt in horror. “Right. Accident, of course. It's not like your table is on the other side of the room or anything. I know how necessary it is for you to walk right past me.” And okay, maybe it's not one of her wittier responses, but she is sort of distracted by her probably-ruined clothing right now.
Anya, apparently unable to come up with anything else to say, tosses her mane scornfully and heads over to her table, and how Jodie wishes she could move with that kind of confidence – but then, if she did, she would probably just get tripped up for her trouble.
She watches as the Uni joins her friends at their table. They all grin and congratulate her on another excellent job. Clearly, that one took a long time to come up with.
Sometimes Jodie wonders if she is surrounded by idiots.
“Here.” Jodie is jolted out of her thoughts by a fistful of floral tissues being waved in her face. She blinks, and realises that Lucky, of all people, is currently sitting beside her, same friendly expression on her face. This girl just can't take a hint.
Jodie stares at the new girl, torn between not wanting to damage her reputation any further (and really, how much worse can it get?) and her desire to not be dripping juice everywhere. It doesn't take long to make her choice.
An hour later, Lucky yet again finds her way into Jodie's presence.
They're out running cross-country and Jodie is by herself as usual, splattered in copious amounts of mud when Lucky falls into step beside her. “I think I'm going to die,” the Eyrie gasps. “I don't think I can go another step.” She keeps going anyway, and Jodie gives her wings a pointed look.
“I can't fly!” Lucky looks scandalized. “That's cheating!” Somewhere above them, Anya can be heard flying rather noisily, albeit as gracefully as ever, her laughter high and clear and unhelpfully lovely.
Jodie doesn't reply. She can't really relate, anyway, because this is her favourite lesson and she loves running because she feels wild and free and this is something she can actually do. “Right,” Lucky pants beside her. “We can do this. Mind over matter. We can totally do this,” she says, and Jodie wonders when, exactly, Lucky decided it was okay to change 'I' to 'we'.
Several seconds later, Lucky admits defeat. “Alright,” she concedes. “We can't do this.” She bends down, pretending to tie up her shoelace. The entire class had been witness to the argument that took place over removing Jodie's flip-flops, but they had eventually been swapped for a pair of muddy trainers.
The charms, however, are another matter, and they clink and jangle as she pretends to adjust her shoe, struggling to catch her breath.
Jodie snorts derisively. “Speak for yourself,” she says, and she sprints away.
She's walking to her last class of the day when it happens.
Anya and a couple of her friends – cronies, she thinks to herself – jump her suddenly. There is a lot of struggling.
Jodie is a bit blurry on the details, but somehow she finds herself wedged inside Lucky's locker. At least, she assumes it belongs to Lucky because it's utterly empty and totally lacking in the personal touch and general charm that Jodie's own locker has. Alright, so there's only a couple of untouched Maths books and a glossy Jazzmosis poster in there, but that's charming enough, right?
It's dark in here.
Jodie has never liked the dark. Now, though, it presses in, in, in on her until she is quite certain it's going to eat her alive. One of her legs is bent in a funny position and she hopes to all that is good and fluffy that she won't be stuck in here for the entire hour that the final lesson lasts for.
Of course, nothing ever goes right for Jodie, and she is trapped inside this dark locker for an hour and forty-five seconds. Yes, she counts it. It's not as if there is anything else to do but simmer in her own anger while she's in here.
Finally, mercifully, the locker swings open to reveal a rather stunned rainbow Eyrie.
“Hello,” Jodie says, as though it's perfectly normal to be sitting inside someone's locker, twisted into an uncomfortable position and wearing a juice-stained T-shirt.
Lucky blinks. “Hello.”
There is a pause.
Then, “Would you like a hand?”
“Please,” replies Jodie politely, because she's pretty sure if she's rude now then she's never getting out of this stupid locker.
Lucky extends a taloned hand which Jodie accepts with some difficulty. The Eyrie gives a hearty tug – and for all her terrible running, the girl sure has a good grip – that makes Jodie come tumbling out of the locker and knocks them both to the ground.
As Jodie picks herself up, she notices that Lucky's once-white shirt is covered in an orange splotch that looks suspiciously like juice. Oh, Anya, thinks Jodie. What a genius you are. Using the same trick twice? Absolutely ingenious.
Somehow, Lucky ends up in Jodie's house.
They wind up walking out of school together, Jodie complaining about the rain for lack of a better topic. Lucky just grins and says that she loves the rain.
“Oh,” Jodie says. “Of course. You love the rain. How not crazy.” And Lucky laughs and heads up the street with her, talking much more easily than Jodie.
Jodie learns all about Lucky, how her family moves around a lot and Lucky picks up strange habits from different cultures and how her mum apparently doesn't know how to give her children normal names because Lucky has a brother named Beegie and a little sister called Muffi-Jo. After learning this, Jodie deduces that Lucky got off lightly.
In return, Jodie tells Lucky about her rather average life, about bullies and orange paintbrushes and her mother's incredible baking and somehow she finds herself inviting Lucky inside to taste for herself.
So Lucky comes inside and tries some of her mum's home-made cookies and proclaims them 'scrumptious', and then she teaches Jodie about rain dances like they do on Mystery Island (Jodie wonders if there's anywhere Lucky hasn't been). They go outside in the rain then, and Jodie dances just like Lucky taught her and they both laugh when it starts raining even harder than before.
Jodie entertains them both by imagining Anya Roberts getting totally soaked thanks to their wonderful dancing and thinks to herself that maybe she has finally found a friend who will like her for her.
The next day, it is still raining. Jodie finds that she doesn't mind quite so much.